Kaitlin Mahar: It’s not cheap, being poor

aThe impoverished obviously have less, but did you know being poor is more expensive?

A University of Michigan study found that the poor spend nearly an extra 6 percent on household staples such as toilet paper. The Census Bureau reported that over 45 million people live below the poverty line. That’s a lot of toilet paper, and even more (unfair) charges.

bAs reported in The Washington Post, because poor people can’t afford to buy items like toilet paper in bulk, unlike the middle class, they end up paying extra. The Economist reports that “inflation has been higher for those in poverty for 139 of 168 months” from 2000-13 and “prices rose 3.2 percent more for the poor over this period.”

Look in the supermarket. A toilet paper twelve-pack costs $12.99, and a single roll costs $2.99. Clearly, because each of the twelve rolls amounts to approximately $1.09, you buy the twelve-pack. However, the poor can’t necessarily spend $12.99 on toilet paper, and are forced to spend $2.99 on a single roll, which is about $1.90 extra.

Oregon’s Rep. Earl Blumenauer says: “The poor pay more for a gallon of milk; they pay more on a capital basis for inferior housing . . . [They] pay more for things middle-class America takes for granted.” And it’s true, the poor are being charged more for necessities that they’re struggling to afford in the first place, while the middle class pays less.

So the question arises: Should the poor be punished for their poverty?


One thought on “Kaitlin Mahar: It’s not cheap, being poor

  1. Reblogged this on Sisterhood of Silence and commented:
    This is an excellent post on something that isn’t often talked about: the fact that it’s expensive to be poor. It’s difficult to “shop smart” when you don’t have enough money to do so. Those small price increases on food and other necessities hit the poor the hardest, because the amount of money they have to spend stays the same, but cost of things continue to rise regularly. Each time they have to adjust their budget for price increases on items they HAVE to buy, the adjustment is usually made possible by sacrificing something else that is also needed, but to a lesser degree.


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